Why Can’t You Commit?

A few months ago, I decided to start hosting an informal reading series at my apartment. There were two reasons for this: 1) I needed motivation to actually produce any writing and a forum in which to share it and 2) many of my friends had expressed these very same needs. So, three times now, I’ve invited some writerly friends – and some friends who are appreciators of writing – to come over, drink some wine, share some work and indulge me in reading (or performing) some of the most horrible fanfiction found around the internet. (I needed a gimmick and the fanfiction thing seemed weird and delightful enough.) The first two readings were great. The participants were eager and we got to hear some great writing. Naturally, I was really excited to host the third reading, which was last week. And then no one showed up.

OK, two people showed up. Which is better than zero, I know. But it made me feel really shitty. And not just because there were so few people there that I was forced to read the 500 unedited words I had written of a new story that’s based on an Appalachian murder ballad. (We would have had one reader otherwise.) I had invited people to an event that I’d committed to and cared about and invested in. (Planning this kind of thing takes time and a little bit of money.) And then not only did very few people respond to tell me whether or not they could make it, but also many of those who said they planned on coming told me that evening that they could no longer attend or didn’t bother to tell me at all.

I’ve been frustrated for a long time by the general lack of response I get when I invite people to something. I never seem to know how many people are going to show up to an event I’m hosting, which always makes me anxious. When I hosted the first two readings, I didn’t get many responses and those that I did get were pretty noncommittal, so I didn’t know that anyone was going to show up to those either. This last time, all of my worst fears were realized when I was sitting in my apartment 30 minutes after the event’s starting time and there was still no one there but me.

I’m sick of this.* I don’t think it’s personal when people don’t show up or respond to an invitation. Generally, I’m angry that nobody can commit to anything. Like, is everyone too cool to say, “Thanks so much for inviting me, but I won’t be able to make it”? Are people “avoiding confrontation”? Are they just lazy? Or are they all waiting for some better option to materialize? I mean, I get it. I like seeming cool. And I hate confrontation just as much as the next person. At times, I can be lazy. And sometimes, I like waiting around for better options. But…I don’t like being an asshole, so usually I try to give people an idea of whether or not I’m coming to something. (Even if I don’t have to RSVP. Which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually mean anything to like 50% of you anyway.)

I don’t plan to host an event and invite people to it because I’m bored or I feel like forcing them to do something. I invite people to things because I like them. And I want to spend time with them. Or I think they’d be interested in attending a party/reading/whatever. (I know for a fact that everyone is interested in parties. I’m less sure about who is interested in attending literary readings, so if you’re definitely not into it, let me know!)

It would have been nice to know in advance that no one could make it last week. I could have canceled the event. Or I could have still gone through with it, but without any of the anxiety I was feeling about so few people showing up. I personally would have had a lot more fun if I hadn’t been worried for that entire day. And I’d bet that would have made it a lot more fun for the people who actually did come.

This rant isn’t directed at any individual. I feel that non-commitment is a larger – perhaps “societal” – problem. But we can change this! Starting now! So, can everyone just, the next time you get invited to something, think for two seconds or look at your calendar and respond to the invitation. You don’t even have to give them a definite answer. (Though definite answers are really nice.) Any answer is better than no answer at all.

*I mean, I’m definitely guilty of having said that I was going to a large public event/birthday/holiday party and then not going. I’m not perfect.

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